The Bills haven’t had a ton of success in the screen game on offense this season. In recent years the offense was pretty efficient on screens. This past week against Miami may be a sign that their getting back to executing it more effectively.
Buffalo ran a handful of screens in the Dolphins game, including the first bubble screen of the season to Sammy Watkins. The more traditional screen plays to backs was also called with Bryce Brown the primary ball carrier.
“It’s definitely something we’ve got to execute a bit better,” said Kraig Urbik. “Early in the season we were not doing a good enough job at that. We’ve got to when it’s not always an obvious screen down. If it’s 3rd-and-15 the screen isn’t always going to be as effective. We’ve been mixing it in on regular down and distance and doing a better job of that and guys have been paying more attention to executing on screens, because it’s been a huge part of our offense the last couple of years.”
Buffalo called screen plays last Thursday night on non-traditional down and distance situations. They called one on 1st-and-10 and Bryce Brown got five yards. They also called one on a 2nd-and-6 play and Brown picked up 16 yards.
“Bryce did a lot of good things and he’s a good running back,” said Urbik. “We have to get that part of our game amped up a little bit more.”
Knowing the fierce pass rushes the Bills have faced this season if they’re able to continue to improve in their screen game execution it could help to neutralize oncoming pass rushers, especially if Brown and/or Fred Jackson can really make them pay.
Tags: Bryce Brown, Kraig Urbik, screen game
Posted in Inside the Bills
The New York Jets defensive line is one of the best in football. They neutralize opposing run games by not giving up ground at the line of scrimmage and clogging up holes. But their pass rush isn’t too shabby either as they have the sixth-highest sack total in the league as well. Then head coach Rex Ryan throws another variable into the mix.
The Jets defense runs a bevy of different front looks at opposing offense, which forces any offensive lineman in the league to grind through a lot more game tape.
“It’s one of the best D-lines in the league right now,” said Kraig Urbik, who might make his first start this season at left guard. “They generate a lot of pressure and it’s the Jets. They do much different blitzes every down so we’re going to have to be on our game and do extra film work this week.”
“They have a lot more fronts that they show and that makes it more difficult to prepare,” said Eric Wood. “It definitely puts an onus on our film study.”
Step one however, will be standing their ground against a defensive line that doesn’t give up much.
“They have so many guys up there that when you watch film you don’t see them getting pushed back at all,” said Urbik. “They get a lot of one-on-ones and you see them beat a lot of one-on-ones too.”
Tags: Bills-Jets, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Big bounce back week for the Bills as they host Minnesota. Just have a feeling the run game will be rediscovered. On to your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Keep them coming.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why isn’t Kraig Urbik starting? Is it stubbornness or the right call or something else in your opinion?
CB: Coach Marrone has been asked about this quite a bit this season. Based on what he’s said it sounds like he and the offensive staff would like to give rookie Cyril Richardson the opportunity to grow into the position. He said as long as Richardson, and Seantrel Henderson for that matter, are still showing signs of improvement in their play they’ll remain in the lineup.
As for Urbik specifically, here is his most recent answer as to why he hasn’t considered re-inserting Urbik into the starting lineup at either one of the guard positions.
“We feel comfortable what his role is for the team right now,” said Marrone of Urbik’s role as backup center. “If someone’s not playing well or not improving, I think (a change is) a possibility. We talk about that too. I think those (rookies) are getting better in there. And collectively, we’ve got to keep them coming along. It’s an option with him. We’ve got Kraig backing up a lot of positions inside.
“I think his versatility is his strength. I think he has good versatility. If we want to put him in there he has the ability to be a starter and go in there and play. He gives us experience. He’s our best option if something were to happen with Eric Wood, and to be ready in case we ever do anything.”
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Will the bills be as predictable as last week? First down, run. Second down, run. Third down, pass.
CB: Contrary to what you might think the Bills threw a good deal on first down last week. In fact on first down they had 12 runs and 15 pass attempts. Granted in the second half they were behind and had to throw more, but even in the first half they had eight runs and six pass attempts. Here were the results.
1st half rush figures – 8 carries, 29 yds, fumble lost
1st half pass figures – 6 pass attempts, 7 yards, INT, sack – fumble lost, 2 incompletions
2nd half rush figures – 4 carries, 6 yds
2nd half pass figures – 9 pass attempts, 24 yards, touchdown, 5 incompletions
Against Detroit the week before the Bills ran on first down 11 times and threw 21 times. So until the propensity to run on first down becomes predictable we’ll take a closer look at the play calling by the offense.
3 - @ChrisBrownBills
How much do the Bills spend on real scouting and that’s both Collegiate & Pro CFL/NFL?
CB: There’s no way for me to get you the budget line for the Bills scouting operations, but I can tell you that the personnel department has upwards of 20 scouts, counting GM Doug Whaley. There are pro scouts, who do the advance scouting of future opponents and put together reports on every prospective free agent in the league. They will also take a look at CFL talent.
The college scouting department makes up the bulk of the group and they are scattered across the country. Each scout is assigned to region of the country and they are assigned to all the schools in their territory, with some overlap between scouts so they can get more than one opinion on a prospect.
The Bills as an organization have long believed in the value of scouting when it comes to building a roster and that has not changed one iota under Doug Whaley.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why do u think they haven’t used Sammy in the screen game? It was what he did the most in college and excelled at it.
CB: I’m not sure why he hasn’t been used more in the screen game. They have run a handful of receiver screens this season, and Mike Williams is an excellent blocking receiver as is Robert Woods. What I like most about your idea is it is an easy way to get the ball in Watkins’ hands regardless of what the opposing defense is doing coverage-wise.
You’re right he did excel at it. Whether it is something the offensive staff turns to more moving forward however, remains to be seen.
5 – Hi Chris,
My question has to do with the offensive line. If Orton can improve the play at the QB position even just a little this team can make a run at the playoffs. However all the QB attention has hid some issues on the offensive line. This offensive line is massive in size but for some reason seems to get very little push and obviously lacks in mobility compared to smaller, quicker lines. What is most disconcerting is that when they run between the tackles there is little space for Freddy or CJ. Most of their run yardage comes when they bounce it outside and get around the edge with their speed. I guess my biggest problem has to do with their philosophy of getting BIG linemen as opposed to smaller more athletic guys that you tend to see on successful teams like the Patriots. Do you think outside of QB, the offensive line is the biggest area of needed improvement and should Marrone be held responsible for this since that is his area of expertise?
CB: Coach Marrone himself admitted that the line play up front needs to be better. Against some of the better defensive fronts this season Buffalo’s offensive line has had trouble winning at the line of scrimmage. It’s a bit surprising in light of their size as you mentioned. All that size has left them a bit less mobile for screens and pulls.
I agree with coach that the line play has to be more consistent and not just in the run game, but in pass protection as well. They’ve got to raise the level of play quickly, and that won’t be easy with a couple of rookies learning on the job.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Kraig Urbik, Kyle Orton, Offensive line, play calling, Sammy Watkins, scouting department
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - @ChrisBrownBills is there any chance Kouandjio begins to take some snaps at Guard. Tackles appear locked in. Pears hasn’t played well.
CB: Head coach Doug Marrone made it clear a little over a week ago that there are no plans right now to give Kouandjio snaps at guard. I think at this point in time the preference is to have him master offensive tackle, particularly on the right side. He played primarily left tackle in college and flipping to the right side has been an adjustment. Marrone said he is encouraged by Kouandjio’s progress, so I don’t think they want to put too much on his plate and compromise his development at tackle with the responsibility of learning another position.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Do the players get brand new jerseys every game?
CB: The general answer here is no. According to @billsequipment most players wear the same jersey each week, unless there is irreparable tearing or other damage to a jersey. This most often happens with offensive and defensive linemen just from all the grabbing and pulling. In that case players are issued replacements.
There are of course exceptions. Players like Mario Williams have memorabilia deals where each game worn jersey is turned in, and sometimes players exchange jerseys with friends on other teams. Fred Jackson was the latest example when he swapped game worn jerseys at the end of last week’s game at Houston with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills I wanted to know why Urbik is a backup this year. Do you know?
CB: It’s hard to know exactly why Kraig Urbik fell out of favor with the offensive staff and has been moved to a backup role. There is no question that based on Buffalo’s moves this offseason that they were looking to make changes there with the signing of Chris Williams and the drafting of Cyril Richardson. I feel Urbik is more than capable of manning one of the starting guard spots, but that’s just my opinion. Head coach Doug Marrone has him serving primarily as the backup center behind Eric Wood, but I believe he can certainly step in at guard.
4 – Hi Chris,
My question concerns the buzz about the jet sweep since Percy Harvin and Cordarelle Patterson are taking the league by storm. We have Marquise Goodwin, why isn’t he on the field more to do stuff like this? I would think he would play more if nothing else than because of his speed. Is he injured or just not performing well in practice? I think he should be on the field more.
Thanks for all your coverage, GO BILLS!
CB: You’re right that Goodwin has not been on the field very much. He’s played a total of 30 snaps in four games. He does have one end around that went for four yards. He’s at a position where the Bills are deep and spread formations are not all that prevalent in Buffalo’s offense anymore. Under former head coach Chan Gailey the four-wide set was their most popular. If that were still the case now I think he would get more work on offense.
I think ideally the offensive coaches want to have a package of plays in each week for Goodwin, but the inability of the offense to stay on the field has compromised those plans to a degree. There’s no question that Goodwin’s presence on the field forces defenses to respect the deep ball, and it creates room underneath for Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods to operate.
5 – Chris,
No one, including reporters is really talking about EJ’s strength in throwing the ball. I’m not referring to skill, but the velocity of his throws.
Jim Kelly mentioned it on air mid-game last Sunday – and to me, it was far more obvious prior to his statement. Seems he lobs the ball versus throwing in there quickly and tight.
Are the coaches on EJ about this? I feel he’d be a better QB if he can aster throwing a tight, fast spiral. His balls seem to be all over the place mid-air. Or is this just what EJ mechanisms are about?
CB: I have noticed that myself, even in the practice setting. EJ never really winds up and fires it to get it in a tight window. I think sometimes his long delivery gives the illusion that the ball isn’t moving fast, but he is certainly capable of throwing a fastball. I’ve seen it at times, but with the physical ability to throw it on a rope I wouldn’t mind seeing it more when he gets another chance to play.
Tags: Cyrus Kouandjio, EJ Manuel, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, Kraig Urbik, Marquise Goodwin, player jerseys
Posted in Inside the Bills
The revolving door at guard has another participant who get time with the starting unit.
Doug Legursky is going to start at left guard in the absence of Chris Williams, who missed the whole week with a back injury.
Kraig Urbik is also supposed to see time at left guard with Cyril Richardson expected to play right guard with the starters when Urbik is not lined up there.
Tags: Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson, Doug Legursky, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills OL Kraig Urbik, who has played mostly left guard in his time with Buffalo was flipped to the left guard spot Wednesday due to the sidelined Chris Williams. It’s yet another lineup shuffle that will continue today, but the interior lineman isn’t too worried about the latest switch.
Urbik took the move in stride, but admits the move does create some differences.
“With Chris (Williams) being out this week so far it’s not as different, but it’s still different going from right to left for sure,” Urbik said.
Urbik confirmed that part of the reason he was moved to the left side was to create a measure of comfort for fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson on the right side.
“Yeah he said he definitely feels more comfortable on the right side so that’s why we’re keeping him there right now,” said Urbik.
Urbik confirmed he’ll be playing left guard again today at practice in Latrobe against the Steelers.
Tags: Bills-Steelers joint practices, Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Can you give some new insight on how defensive ends will work under Schwartz? Besides Mario it seems like Bills have other options. Hughes was better as an OLB and I don’t see him as every down because of his size. Lawson also has never played DE as well. Do you see this as a major draft need? I feel worried that the sacks/pass rush will fall off because of the scheme change.
CB: While you are right that Lawson has very limited experience as a full time defensive end having played mostly in 3-4 defensive schemes in his career, he is an expert leverage player. So although long and wiry I believe Lawson can make that transition, most likely on the right side. He’s been up on the line enough in his career to know how to handle such a role. Of course the proof is in the pudding.
As for Hughes it’s certainly possible he’s reduced to a pass rushing role, but I think that’s something that will play out in the spring camps and training camp.
I do agree that it is somewhat of a hidden need for Buffalo that isn’t talked about much. They do need to find another fit for Schwartz’s scheme knowing things are changing.
2 – Hey Chris,
Last year attending Bills training camp at St. John Fisher, it appeared to me that EJ Manuel had an extremely good long ball. His release was quick, the throws were accurate, and the offense was often successful completing those long throws. However during the season I did not often see EJ attempt long throws. I wonder did you see the same thing I did at camp? If so, have you any thoughts about why they didn’t make all that many long passing attempts during the season? Do you think we might see more of a long passing game this year?
CB: Last year the aim was to keep the offense on the field so deep throws, while potentially rewarding don’t provide a high success rate. With a young QB running things, the plan was to string together high percentage plays and not create too much risk. That’s why Buffalo ran the ball so much last season (most rushes in the NFL in 2013).
Provided EJ demonstrates more efficient decision making, particularly when under duress, through the offseason and preseason I do anticipate more long passes per game. Realistically though unless there is a flaw in an opponent’s secondary there are usually not much more than half a dozen of those kinds of plays attempted by one team in a game.
3 - Hi Chris.
Thanks for keeping everybody posted during free agency. It’s certainly appreciated.
With the new CBA, is it legal for teams to have something like a “behavior clause” in a players contract? For example “you lose X number of dollars if you get more then 3 personal fouls this season” or you lose X number of dollars if you get in a fight with the media” etc. I know Marrone is all about accountability and I think this would be a great way to increase accountability by hitting them where it hurts the most. If that isn’t legal, could it be part of an incentive clause? “No personal fouls equals a bonus at the end of the year, etc…
Thanks for your time. Can’t wait for football season.
CB: To my knowledge morals clauses are permitted, but that doesn’t mean a player’s agent is going to openly accept it. In a good number of cases, the penalties handed down by the league for violation of personal conduct and substance abuse policies are pushed as sufficient deterrents by agents to avoid such morals clauses. However, if the money is significant a player is typically more accepting of the morals clauses that can sometimes come with it.
4 – Dear Chris,
Can you help me understand what the Bills are doing at both guard positions? They just seem not to value that position very much on offense. Kraig Urbik is an average player at best, and they seem to have a bit of a revolving door going on the left side. Neither Colin Brown or Doug Legursky played very well last year.
Now they have signed Chris Williams, a move that attracted a lot of criticism from various sources, saying that he was the weakest link in a poor Rams line last season. Why would the Bills want to bring such a player into Buffalo?
I would have thought they would like to better protect the huge investment they have made in EJ Maunuel. Can you provide me with some insight about what the Bills brain trust is thinking here?
Thanks and Regards,
CB: I think we sometimes fall victim to media assessments of players and treat it as gospel. In the case of Chris Williams I think he’s a decided upgrade at left guard. As I’ve mentioned on my blog I watched three of his games last year against the #1, #5 and #6 ranked defenses last season, all of which he had to face twice since they were his division opponents in the NFC West in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.
Williams was steady and reliable in all three games, all the first meetings against each of those teams. He didn’t have any busts and performed well in both run and pass. Was he super spectacular and making eye popping plays? No, but he was effective and truthfully that’s all you need at left guard.
Knowing he’ll be playing in between two of Buffalo’s best starters in Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood should stand to raise his game another peg. Much like Williams I think Urbik is a steady player at right guard.
4 – Hey Chris,
What are your thoughts on the Bills saying that they’re good with their current qb situation as well as having their free safety in the roster already?! It’s mind boggling to me considering the mess they got into when EJ got injured. They didn’t have the confidence in Searcy/Williams/Meeks when Byrd had his injury to start the season, but now they do? Is it just pre-draft strategy or do you think they honestly believe it?
CB: I do think they believe it. Doug Whaley and his personnel department as well as the coaching staff has an enormous amount of confidence in EJ Manuel. They are also very high on Thad Lewis as a backup prospect. Now with Lewis’ former quarterbacks coach in Detroit now here in Todd Downing, they’re even more confident that Lewis and Manuel for that matter can both take the next step in their respective development.
As for safety I think they do genuinely believe in the talent they have on the roster. Aaron Williams is likely to be the free safety with the strong safety spot filled by one of the candidates trying to land the job. I really was impressed with what I saw from Duke Williams last year in the practice setting. I didn’t see enough of Meeks who was hurt and Da’Norris Searcy had his best season last year as a hybrid subpackage linebacker.
You have to remember the Bills drafted in advance of losing Byrd in last year’s draft when they took Williams and Meeks back to back in rounds four and five. They prepped for that loss. Now the defense is changing so they’ll essentially be rookies again. Knowing that the Bills picked up veteran Corey Graham, who granted has been a cornerback most of his career, but will be in the mix at safety as well.
I think they’ve done a good job of covering their bases there.
5 – Chris,
I don’t see the Bills drafting a right tackle in the draft because historical they don’t draft lineman that high. The Bills have depth at WR and TE but need that one big play-maker. Even with Chandler back and lots of speed wideouts, what director do you think they might go in rounds 1-2. Mike Evans and Eric Ebron will probably be on the board with Watkins gone. Which player do you think the Bills will covet more? What are the chances they pick either of them at 9?
CB: It’s hard to know for sure what the Bills think since they lock up their draft board like every other team. I will say that both players are dynamic difference makers for a passing game and both would be a huge help to EJ Manuel.
As we’ve drawn closer to the draft I think it’s becoming less likely that Mike Evans is still on the board at nine. He’s most likely to go to Tampa at pick 7 as they are in dire need of receiver help. Ebron is more likely to be on the board at nine.
I believe if the top tackles are off the board and Evans is gone as well, Ebron might be the best option left.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, CBA, Chris Williams, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Eric Ebron, Fan Friday, Jim Schwartz, Kraig Urbik, Manny Lawson, Mike Evans
Posted in Inside the Bills
Sunday will be step one in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can make it a season sweep of the Dolphins. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Hi Chris,
As a Bills’ fan for decades, I believe coach Marrone is a good coach. The question is whether he can turn around the losing culture. I have a few questions regarding accountability and talents.
What are the Bills going to do with the undependable players? This includes, but not limited to, Steve Johnson, Leodis McKelvin and T. J. Graham.
What is Jairus Byrd’s long term prospect with the Bills? The Bills like to get rid of established players to save a few bucks. In the end, this contributes to a longer wish list for the ever rebuilding process. A
recent example is the Offensive line. My suggestion is to get rid of Steve Johnson and save some money for Byrd’s contract. (Note, The Bills is in the business to make money. I suppose a better product would lead to increased revenue. In this case, a true contender in NFL).
What is the long term plan for the QB position? I mean both first string and backup in this case? While coach Marrone indicated EJ Manuel is the long term solution. I beg the difference. EJ is not playing any
better than JP Losman by comparing their rookie year. Lewis and Tuel are littering their path with interceptions and fumbles. How long do you think these two can keep their job in NFL?
Marcus Easley seems to be doing a very good job in special teams. What is the possibility of moving him to CB if the Bills cannot use him as WR? This may afford the team to get rid of Leodis McKelvin thereby saving more money.
The New England Patriots seem to be able to overcome huge deficit consistently. When playing with the Patriots (as well as other teams), what are the Bills doing to safeguard our calls/signals from being stolen?
Please keep up with the good work.
C. J. Wong, Ph.D.
CB: I understand why you feel like the players you mentioned are not dependable. This is where the coaches and front office make their offseason evaluations, but being dependable goes beyond just game day. It’s about being a professional every day of the week in everything that you do. So if the players you mentioned struggle in those areas then they could be at risk with respect to their futures here.
Doug Marrone is only going to keep players on this roster that he feels he can win with the way he wants to win. He has stressed accountability time and again and has been clear in explaining to his players what accountability means. They’ve had all season to prove they’re on board. If they’re not, and only the coaches and their teammates would know for certain if that’s the case, then they won’t be here long term.
As for Jairus Byrd, the safety has said he’s open-minded to staying here long term, which is an improvement in terms of where that situation was this past summer. I think Byrd is smart enough to know that he can really flourish in this defense with the talent he has around him on that side of the ball. Talent that is tied up long term for the most part. Byrd has to be convinced that he can win here and as is usually the case the money has to be right as well.
At the quarterback position EJ is their long term answer at the position. You may not be convinced, but the people that make those decisions are. I believe this offseason will be dedicated to putting more talent around Manuel to help him succeed. We’ve certainly seen flashes of ability. What has me most encouraged is the way in which Manuel performs when the game is on the line. Buffalo has needed a clutch quarterback for the longest time and Manuel has shown he has that ability. With improved talent around him he’ll also be better for the other portions of the game too.
I believe the decision makers still see Jeff Tuel as a developmental type prospect. Thad Lewis is still being evaluated, which is why Sunday’s game is huge for him. He’s proven he’s tough and that he can deliver big plays. Now he has to prove he can learn from his mistakes and improve from some of his shortcomings in the first meeting with Miami. It’s really the perfect litmus test for him.
I completely disagree with your Marcus Easley idea. Easley doesn’t not have the foot quickness to play CB, and Leodis McKelvin is having his most consistent season in a Bills uniform at cornerback. Not to mention he’s playing at very affordable money for his position.
Finally, the reason the Patriots are able to overcome big deficits is primarily one reason and one reason only, they have one of the best quarterbacks in a generation in Tom Brady. End of story.
2 – Hi Chris, I live in Western Canada so it is always hard to get coverage on the Bills out here. So I really appreciate all your updates.
My question is about Stevie Johnson. It seems every year there is a play that he fails to make that costs us a game. The game against Pittsburgh in OT where he dropped the wide open pass, the game against the Jets when he again dropped a game winning TD, and of course against the Falcons which just didn’t just cost us that game, but our season.
He is a great receiver, no doubt about that, but I question if he is ever going to be a clutch number 1 receiver. We all agree that we need a big “go up and get it” receiver. So if we get that receiver, someone has to go.
I think we should consider trading Stevie Johnson this off season. Robert Woods is precise in route running and has good chemistry with EJ, and Goodwin and Graham are fast on the outside and can also move inside when needed. I think Stevie is odd man out and gives us the most return for our buck, plus maybe he is to used to losing in Buffalo. What do you think we could get for Johnson? A 2nd rounder or maybe someone like Bowe in KC?
Paddy, Vancouver Canada
CB: I think Johnson is the type of receiver whose return in a trade would be limited. The reason why is he is a possession receiver. He’s a move-the-chains player not a stretch the field, deliver a game-changing play every week type wideout. Johnson is a very unique player with a unique skill set, but he is not going to blow the doors off a defense. All that being said I think at best he’d get you a fourth-round draft choice. Frankly, it might be even less because his contract may not fit the role another team might envision for him, so to take on that salary would likely lead to a team offering less in return like a fifth or sixth-round pick.
3 – Hey Chris,
My question is regarding the offensive line. How do you see the Bills helping the line in the off season? I know they have to see how guys like JJ ‘Unga pan out over the last 3 games, but if they do go after a guy in the draft, do you see them going after a guy who can be versatile? Are there typically guys who can play guard and tackle? I would imagine that’s what coaches look for in any player on the field. Do you think free agency is possible? Also, do you think Chris Hairston will be able to return to form?
CB: I would not be surprised if there are wholesale changes made on the offensive line. As I see it the only players who have job security are Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood. Kraig Urbik rebounded real well this past week after a down week in Tampa, but I think he will be pushed for his starting job this offseason and into training camp based on what we saw the past couple of weeks with J.J. ‘Unga. Beyond those three I expect to see change there. I think the organization will look to the draft and free agency to address the offensive line.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for the great reporting, week by week for the Bills. Yourself and John Murphy do a great job but My question is based of everything about this youth movement and getting these unknown guys more playing time. I been listening and reading about the guys y’all are naming but I keep seeing this guy left out…. Duke Williams? Why is he not getting involved in the discussions and not getting more reps? What part of his game is lacking that has him buried on the depth chart? Because before the season he was getting hyped up as a utility guy in the secondary, that could play multiple positions. What happened? Please explain that to me.
Brian in South Carolina
CB: Thanks for the kind words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Murph. Duke Williams is a player that has been seeing time mainly on special teams. The reason he has not seen time at safety is because there is quality and experienced talent in front of him in Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard. I do think heading into next season Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks could challenge for bigger roles and what happens with Byrd and Leonhard this offseason with both being free agents will have an impact on that as well.
5 – Chris,
I have been surprised at the lack of two back sets the Bills are utilizing this year. I would think this would confuse defenses as Fred is a highly capable pass-blocking back and we all know about CJ’s home run ability with every touch. Would these formations not mix things up and keep opposing defenses off balance… not knowing to expect run or pass?
Also, I am concerned (as are many fans) about the utilization of CJ Spiller. Not in terms of number of plays per game, or on the year, but the play calls he is being used in. They seem to heavily favor running him behind the left or right guards. Why not more screen plays? I think all of us get excited when CJ Spiller has the ball with 3-4 blockers in front of him with the ability to pick and choose which lanes he wants to take.
Jim from Massachusetts
CB: We saw some split backfield in training camp, but there has been very little of it during the season. I do think there is an element of predicitability there when they have only Fred or C.J. on the field in a single back set. Heading into last week’s Jacksonville game I know that Spiller had not been on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps since Week 2.
However, when he is on the field he got the ball 60 percent of the time. While the usage is admirable I fear that it makes Buffalo’s offense predictable when Spiller is in the backfield.
Jackson is usually on the field in third down situations because they trust him with blitz pickup and blocking assignments.
I don’t know a one-thousandth of what Nathaniel Hackett knows about football, but I do think a split backfield with C.J. and Fred in the offensive backfield on third down could create a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. That’s where I think it could be most useful for Buffalo’s offense.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Cordy Glenn, Doug Marrone, Duke Williams, EJ Manuel, Eric Wood, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, J.J. Unga, Jairus Byrd, Kraig Urbik, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Easley, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
The plan all along was to get rookie G J.J. ‘Unga more snaps in Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. With Kraig Urbik a game time decision with a foot injury it even raised the possibility that ‘Unga would make his first NFL start. Neither of those scenarios developed as Urbik turned in one of his better performances and went wire to wire in the win over the Jaguars.
“I think because we made the decision that Urbik went in there and started playing well and he was playing at a higher level than he had played before,” said head coach Doug Marrone in explaining why ‘Unga did not see any playing time on offense. “(Urbik) did some good things so Pat (Morris) came to me and asked, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘The way Kraig is playing right now and as healthy as he is we’re sticking with him because we’re trying to win a game.’”
Tags: J.J. Unga, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Kiko Alonso, who was questionable for today’s game is active for the game and will play. RG Kraig Urbik, who was also questionable will play as well.
With no indication on lineup changes it’s assumed they will both start. Here are the rest of the Bills inactives.
QB Jeff Tuel
DB Jonathan Meeks
RB Ronnie Wingo
DB Brandon Smith
OG Mark Asper
OG Antoine McClain
TE Tony Moeaki
Tags: Bills inactives, Kiko Alonso, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills RG Kraig Urbik, has not been able to practice this week until today.
Urbik is participating in practice here on Friday. We’ll have his official level of participation post practice, but coach Marrone has said that he’s expected to be a game time decision.
Tags: Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills MLB Kiko Alonso (knee) was limited in practice for a second straight day, but head coach Doug Marrone is not concerned about having Alonso available for Sunday’s game.
“Kiko was limited, but that was more on us, just bringing him along,” said Marrone. “He wanted to do everything, but we held him back. Unless something happens between now and (Sunday) he’ll play. I think we’ll have to list him as probable.”
Starting RG Kraig Urbik did not practice with a foot injury for a second straight day. Marrone has already said he’ll be a game time decision. Also not practicing was CB Brandon Smith, who suffered an ankle injury in Wednesday’s practice.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Kiko Alonso, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills starting RG Kraig Urbik did not practice Wednesday ad is iffy for Sunday’s game.
“Did not participate in practice. I think he’s going to be a game time decision,” said Marrone. “He has a foot injury. It was sore after the game. We thought it would get better, but it didn’t.”
Marrone confirmed that if Urbik can’t play that J.J. ‘Unga will start in his place at right guard.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Atlanta Falcons have lost eight of their last nine games including the last five in a row. They currently sit at 2-9 on the season and were the first NFC team eliminated from playoff contention. The Bills however, aren’t thinking they can just show up and win on Sunday.
“We know we’re going to get their best,” said Kraig Urbik. “They’re going to come out firing and they’re a good defense too. You look at the guys up front that they have and they have a really good talented defense so yeah their record might not be where they want it to be, but they’re going to come out firing when they come out to play us.”
“We have to approach like this team was in the NFC championship last year and they were in the game,” said Scott Chandler. “It was a good game, so they’re a very talented football team and we’ve got to approach it as they’re a good team.”
“If you look at their offense especially, because that’s what I can speak to, they’ve done a lot of great things,” said Arthur Moats. “With Matt Ryan out there, he’s still making plays, even with them losing Julio and everything like that, Roddy, he’s still out there, you have to always account for him. And their running game, between Steven Jackson and Jacquizz, that’s a really good one-two punch.”
Tags: Arthur Moats, Bills-Falcons, Kraig Urbik, Scott Chandler
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - Hey Chris,
I really like what I’ve been seeing from the Bills lately. It’s starting to look like a great team. Can we expect Mario to play like he did against Carolina more often and when Byrd and Gilmore return how much better do you expect them to be? Lastly, I want to ask what is your biggest concern with this team going forward?
PS – I love what EJ has done but do you think he’s getting a bit overhyped it’s only been a few games, but man does it seem like this kid can keep his cool under pressure.
CB: I think Mario’s success is going to depend on the players around him up front. Provided they make plays when he draws the most attention from the opposing offensive line, it will force future opponents to pick their poison so to speak. Baltimore chose to double Kyle Williams and Mario most often in the game. As a result, Marcell Dareus saw a lot of one-on-one matchups and won more than his fair share with six tackles and a pair of sacks. As long as the guy that’s getting the one-on-one matchups is winning, the attention paid to the defensive linemen will vacillate back and forth sometimes week to week. We saw Mario get some opportunities last night even though he saw his fair share of double teams.
When Gilmore and Byrd are back in the lineup it’ll no doubt be a boost. The extent of Byrd’s role when he does return however, is up for debate. I expect him to be eased in playing in subpackages at first. Eventually he may be worked back in as a starter. Remember he hasn’t played an NFL regular season game in nine months, had no training camp and no preseason, and has only practiced Mike Pettine’s defense for a month.
As for a concern with the team, it’s the evolution of the offense. It’s going to be a process, but I think it has to be one that makes progress each week. Among the hurdles to be cleared are third down and red zone, two of the most important requirements to be a top offense in the league.
EJ has had his ups and downs, but overall he is making good progress. I think most people agree it’s a matter of when not if with Manuel.
2 – Chris,
Thank you for covering all the great news coming out of Buffalo. My question is in regards to the LG position. Colin Brown is certainly looking like he has had his share of problems in the first two games going against some pretty good and big DT’s in Star Lotulelei and Vince Wilfork. He also had trouble with Mizzou sensation and Rookie DT Sheldon Richardson. I have been wondering what his status is on the team? I have heard Coach say he is happy with who he has on the o-line so I doubt a change will be made. From watching the games and being there at One Bills Drive can you tell anything about Colin Brown and why he is having a hard time? Is it the competition he is going against or rooted in fundamentals and overall talent? For a man his size (6’7 325lbs) he has been a problem so far this year. Running to the left side for some nice gains would be welcoming.
Taylor – Greater St. Louis Area
CB: I think without question the Baltimore game was his best performance. In a more traditional offensive approach when they ask the offensive line to line up and smack and defensive front in the mouth, that’s what he does best. I think we do have to take into account the caliber of talent he’s been going against early this season. Wilfork – a perennial Pro Bowl player, Lotulelei – a top 10 pick, Richardson – another 1st round pick, Ngata – a perennial Pro Bowl player.
We have to remember he’s the new addition to the offensive line, so I thought before passing judgment it would be fair to give him the first month of the season to settle in. Let’s see where he takes his game from here.
3 – Hi Chris,
One of the few plays the Bills have run consistently the past couple years has been screens. It seems getting Mr. Spiller, Mr. Jackson and a few others some breathing space was highly effective. Unless I missed something grabbing a snack, I don’t recall the Bills running any screens these first two games. For an offensive staff that insists it adjusts to the player’s strengths, why does it appear they have abandoned screens?
Matt from Saratoga
CB: I think part of the reason screens haven’t been used as much is because they are trying to play to the players’ strengths, meaning the offensive line. The loss of Andy Levitre limited their athleticism on the offensive line. Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik are capable of getting out on screens, but I don’t know if that’s enough to convince the offensive staff that it could be a frequent weapon for them.
Now we did see a couple of screens last night that provided some measure of success so perhaps we’ll see more moving forward.
We have to remember that Nathaniel Hackett and Doug Marrone are still feeling out the roster and finding what plays work best with their personnel in their system. The coaches have to learn what works best as much as the players have to learn what they’re being asked to execute.
Next year at this time there won’t be those questions.
4 – Hey Chris
Wondering if you could give us a projected return date (or game) for the list of inured players? I think we’re getting close to when Gilmore might return, right? How about Goodwin? Brooks? Byrd has no timetable, right?
We sure would be a lot better off with all of those guys on the field!
CB: Here’s an idea as to where they’re at.
Stephon Gilmore – Cincinnati is the earliest possible return, but I think it might be a week after that.
Ron Brooks – He’s closer. He’s doing straight line running now, but not cutting yet.
Marquise Goodwin – Think he has a chance this coming week. Began catching passes this past week
Dustin Hopkins – Real close, good chance to be ready for Cincy game.
5 – Chris,
We should really look at getting him, if possible, to have another good QB on our roster no?
CB: Doug Marrone has maintained that promoting through the practice squad is the course they usually take. Thad Lewis knows the offense and is on the practice squad. Of course Doug Whaley has said if they ever have a chance to upgrade the roster they will look to do it.
That being said Josh Freeman is a player that has some off the field concerns that need to be investigated. If those check out and he’s not looking for giant money, which is possible, then I’ve got no problem with the Bills kicking the tires on him.
Tags: Colin Brown, Doug Marrone, Dustin Hopkins, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, Josh Freeman, Kraig Urbik, Mario Williams, Marquise Goodwin, Nathaniel Hackett, Ron Brooks, Stephon Gilmore
Posted in Inside the Bills
Buffalo got a starting offensive lineman and defensive lineman back on the practice field Thursday.
Kyle Williams (Achilles) and Kraig Urbik (knee) both sat out Wednesday’s practice, but we’re back working Thursday. Both are expected to play Sunday against the Ravens.
We’ll get the official measure of their participation post practice.
Tags: Kraig Urbik, Kyle Williams
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills have had faith in EJ Manuel’s abilities from the get go despite no hard evidence at the NFL level in the regular season. Those abilities were on display on Buffalo’s final drive, but his teammates all along expected him to come through.
“We had all the confidence in the world, with all the players we had on the field,” said Kraig Urbik. “We knew EJ could do it. We do that all the time in practice even in preseason, we have two minute drives all the time. I don’t know what it is about the tempo or whatever but we just seem to do well in two minute and it showed again (Sunday).”
When asked what Manuel was like in the huddle Urbik didn’t sound like he was describing a rookie.
“He’s cool and calm, confident in what he’s doing,” said Urbik. “He’s a leader. He gets in the huddle and gets us going. He’s been good out there.”
Tags: EJ Manuel, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills G Kraig Urbik was asked about being in the huddle with both Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel. Naturally Urbik said Kolb is just a confident veteran that you can tell knows his stuff. Here’s what he said about the rookie signal caller.
“I don’t see a rookie when I’m in the huddle with him,” said Urbik appearing on the Howard Simon show on the Bills Radio Network. “I just see his ability as a quarterback. He doesn’t strike me as a guy with a doe in the headlights. All you see is his ability out there on the field.”
The Bills next practice is Monday at 2 pm.
Tags: Bills Radio Network, Bills training camp, EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills
The demanding cardio work that is a big part of Buffalo’s offseason conditioning program has had Bills players throwing up at times during workouts. But they know in the long run all the work to build their stamina and endurance now will pay off come the fall.
“It’s a lot of conditioning along with the speed stuff and the high tempo in the weight room, there’s no down time, it’s always going,” said Brad Smith. “It just gets the most out of you. The workouts are pretty tough.”
For offensive linemen like Kraig Urbik, who was asked to play heavier under the previous regime at around 330 pounds, the demands have shifted to lighter and faster.
“I’m actually dropping a lot of weight. I’m down 10 pounds,” Urbik told Buffalobills.com. “I’m going to keep doing it from my body standpoint. Running a high tempo offense I’m going to need to be in this kind of shape.”
Tags: Brad Smith, Kraig Urbik, Offseason conditioning program
Posted in Inside the Bills
It’s been a heck of a week here at One Bills Drive, with more big news to come once the Bills find their new head coach. Stay tuned to Buffalobills.com all offseason for updates. Also keep sending your questions to AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
What do you think of the idea of drafting two of the best QBs available in this year’s draft? Last year the Redskins did and I think it’s working for them, don’t you? What do we have to lose? It’s quite evident we’re lacking in even (1) good QB on this team, right? As long as we have the right people making the calls on the draft, this could work. If we land one good QB, the best man would win out in training camp and then we have out second stringer in place.
CB: I thought it interesting that GM Buddy Nix this week reiterated how they intend to draft a quarterback and then added in that they might acquire another in free agency. Last year I think the opportunity to draft two quarterbacks was more realistic. The pool was much deeper. This year the pool of talent at QB is much thinner by all indications. So I think making use of two draft picks on quarterbacks might not provide the desired results this time around.
2 - Hi Chris,
I appreciate all the work you and your colleagues do to bring us inside Bills videos, statistics, and interviews that provide some insight into OBD.
What’s my hope as Joe Ticket Buyer for next season? We’re going to have the AFC North and NFC South on the schedule, which are both very difficult divisions. What will be different? Can you give me any hope as a 29-year old that hasn’t seen his team in the playoffs since he was a sophomore in high school?
Finally, would you agree that finding a young quarterback to groom (or play) has to be priority #1 in the offseason? Sure, more linebackers and a wide receiver would be nice, but without a quarterback that can make all of the throws in the NFL accurately and often, aren’t we still just spinning our wheels?
Thanks again, and please keep up the great work.
CB: First, thanks for the compliments. Our staff appreciates it. With a new head coach coming in with a new staff and undoubtedly new ideas for the roster I think it’s safe to say a lot will be different for the 2013 Bills. No question those divisions on Buffalo’s slate won’t be easy, but let’s see what unfolds this offseason as far as the Bills are concerned before we make our assessments.
I agree quarterback is a big issue for this team. As I mentioned in the above response it is a position that the personnel department plans to address this offseason.
3 - Hey Chris,
After Urbik re-signed, do think that helps the chances of Levitre re-signing? He has been our most durable lineman and I would view him to be our top priority? Also what do think the chances are that the franchise tag is put on Byrd? I believe the tag amount on safeties is just above kicker and punter? Also, since D Jones and Nelson were undrafted can’t the bills give them 1st or 2nd rd tender offers as opposed to the low qualifying tender offers? (2nd making the most sense) Also what do think about a trade to the Jets? Brad Smith for Tebow and a draft pick?
Grosse Ile, MI
CB: I don’t believe that one re-signing necessarily impacts another. The re-signing of Urbik is certainly good news for the Bills. Re-signing Levitre figures to be a bit more complicated. Levitre has been the most durable lineman on the roster having never missed a game in four years and is a heck of an interior lineman. I believe negotiations once they begin will take some time. Levitre has stated an interest in returning.
As for Byrd I get the sense in my conversations with him that he wants to test the free agent market. I worry that the Bills may have to make use of the franchise tag to keep him. The projected tag amount for safeties in 2013 is $6.4M.
Yes, you’re right with both Jones and Nelson undrafted there is not compensation due the Bills should they be tendered at the low level by Buffalo and another club signs them to an offer sheet and the Bills choose not to match. It’s likely that one, possibly both will be tendered at a middle tender, which would offer compensation to the Bills in the form of a second-round pick. I’d expect the new head coach would have a good deal of input on that.
Finally, no on your trade suggestion.
4 - Chris,
Thanks for your time and great work covering the Bills. Question is about the defense in light of the coaching change and it not being a setback. I agree, only if they stay in the 4-3. If it were a switch to the 3-4 then an overhaul of personal will be a setback. I don’t want to hear Mario as a OLB. He likes putting his hand down, rushing the blocker. So head coach that does whatever with our offense weapons and defense that stays a 4-3 and we can still compete for the playoffs next year. Do you agree? Switch to the 3-4 a setback?
Bills fan in Raleigh,
CB: I think it’s safe to say that moving to a 3-4 defensively would be a major challenge moving forward if the defense is to improve on their substandard rankings this past year. The new defensive scheme can’t be a major change schematically. If it is a whole new learning curve will ensue and that will keep the players vets and young players alike from playing fast. I’d imagine the coach search committee is making it clear the 4-3 is something they’d prefer to keep intact.
5 – Chris,
I’m not interested in recycling a recently-fired head coach as Bills’ head man, but I am interested in putting pieces in place that can help the franchise. Many fired head coaches return to action as a coordinator (Del Rio in Denver, for example). Guys that don’t have a job right now are prime candidates for those jobs.
I like the idea of getting a young, innovative head coach (Doug Marrone, Mike McCoy, etc.) but surround him with experienced coordinators. My selections would be Ken Whisenhunt as OC and Lovie Smith – he says he wants to come to Buffalo! – as my DC. Above all, we need a guy at the top who can evaluate and develop a young QB. (The knock on Whisenhunt is that he failed to develop Kolb, Skelton, Lindley (?) in AZ.)
What do you think about that?
Interesting comment on WGR yesterday about looking at Special Teams coaches (Harbaugh, Levy) as Head Coaches because they use the entire roster in putting teams together, thus they have a knack for working with – and getting the most out of – the entire roster.
Intriguing thought, but I think it still comes down to getting the guy with the “right stuff”. Can he manage the game day decisions, delegate the game plan development to his coordinators, motivate the team to play, get the most out of his talent? Then sign him up!
Thanks for your time. Let’s hope the Bills get it right this time.
CB: The Bills have made it clear that they’re not discriminating and exploring all options. I think the candidate pool which reportedly varies from Doug Marrone to Lovie Smith reflects that. As for your proposed HC, OC, DC combination that trio would cost upwards of $15M a year just for those three. Don’t know that it’s realistic.
That being said I do agree with your coaching point on developing a young QB knowing Buddy Nix intends to draft a signal caller. I also agree with a head coach being a head coach on Sundays and delegating all play calling to the coordinators. I’m a big fan of that approach. We’ll see what happens.
Tags: Andy Levitre, Bills coaching search, Buddy Nix, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, Kraig Urbik
Posted in Inside the Bills